SALT LAKE CITY — The Bees entered Monday's contest against Sacramento knowing that things would not be going their way if Willie Eyre entered the game.
Sure enough, with Salt Lake trailing 3-2 in the sixth inning, out trotted the former Cyprus High standout, who now assumes the role of late-game stopper for the PCL's top team. Eyre proceeded to throw three innings of scoreless relief as Sacramento pulled out a 4-2 win.
"It was exciting tonight," Eyre said. "I pitched here last year and didn't throw too well, so to be here in front of a bunch of family and friends and to play well was lots of fun. I had a really good cheering section."
Eyre allowed two hits and no walks, and lowered his season ERA to a meager 1.65. He threw 21 of his 25 pitches for strikes and was removed from the game in favor of Trystan Magnuson, who pitched a scoreless ninth inning for his fourth save of the year.
"I had a pretty good idea I was done after the eighth," Eyre said. "But I still gave my manager a hard time because I would have liked to pick up a four-inning save."
After starring in high school and becoming a two-time All-American outfielder at the College of Eastern Utah, Eyre was drafted as a pitcher in the 23rd round of the 1999 draft by the Minnesota Twins. He made his major league debut for the Twins in 2006 and has since appeared in 92 big-league games, mostly in relief.
Eyre has five wins, a save, a hold and one Tommy John surgery to his credit.
This season, Eyre is 3-2 with six saves and was named the PCL's pitcher of the week on June 5 after recording four straight saves — including two against Salt Lake. He hopes to play in the big leagues again, but will take whatever comes his way.
"I gave it up to God a little while ago — I just said, 'I'm not going to worry about baseball anymore' and just decided to go out and have fun," he said. "I still love coming out to the field every day and hanging out with the guys. I'm sure there will be a day when I come in and know I'm done, and that's when I'll hang them up."
The River Cats benefited from two solo home runs by outfielder Michael Taylor, while Carlos Hernandez threw five innings of two-hit ball to pick up his third win of the season.
For the Bees, Alexi Amarista and Jeremy Moore each had two hits, and Eric Junge overcame a rough first inning — 16 of his first 30 pitches were balls — to go 51?3 innings and keep the Bees in the game.
Salt Lake manager Keith Johnson was ejected in the bottom of the eighth inning for arguing a runner's interference call on Tyson Auer, who reached on a bunt single before being ruled out by home plate umpire Barry Larson.
The two teams will meet again tonight at 7:05 p.m. at Spring Mobile Ballpark.